From Right Field: The Absolutely-Positively-Guaranteed-to-Make-You-Somebody’s-Hero Deck

Imagine it. You sit down across from your opponent. You roll the die and win. You shake hands. You mulligan to six. Your opponent’s feeling good about that. And you win before he even gets a chance to draw the card on his first turn. In Standard. You’re a legend. Not a Legend. You’re awfully close, though. You’d be my hero, anyway. And a lot of other folks’, too. Today I’m going to give you your very own guide to becoming a hero.

{From Right Field is a column for Magic players on a budget or players who don’t want to play netdecks. The decks are designed to let the budget-conscious player be competitive in local, Saturday tournaments. They are not decks that will qualify a player for The Pro Tour. As such, the decks written about in this column are, almost by necessity, rogue decks. They contain, at most, eight to twelve rares. When they do contain rares, those cards will either be cheap rares or staples of which new players should be trying to collect a set of four, such as Wrath of God, City of Brass, or Birds of Paradise. The decks are also tested by the author, who isn’t very good at playing Magic. His playtest partners, however, are excellent. He will never claim that a deck has an 85% winning percentage against the entire field. He will also let you know when the decks are just plain lousy. Readers should never consider these decks “set in stone” or “done.” If you think you can change some cards to make them better, well, you probably can, and the author encourages you to do so.}

Prologue: The Apology

As the intro says, the decks I throw out here strive to be cheap, which usually means twelve or fewer rares. Today’s has sixteen. I apologize. However, in my defense, eight of them are listed in the StarCityGames.com store (as I write this) at $1.25 each while four others are $2.50 each. That’s a mere $20 for twelve rares. The fourth set of four are $7.00 each. Sorry. Can’t avoid that one. Why not? They’re Blazing Shoals, and there is no deck without them.

That’s right, kiddies. Hop on for a wild ride. We’re a gonna try to get a first-turn kill in Standard. Hee-haw!

I Guarantee 100% That at Some Point This Deck Will Probably Work, Maybe

We love flashy in this country. That’s why there’s six hours of pre-Oscar stuff about the dresses and jewels that the various starlets are going to wear. That’s why we have Paul McCartney do the half-time show of America’s unofficial holiday, The Super Bowl. There is nothing flashier in Magic than a first-turn kill.

Come on. We’ve all dreamed about it. It’s no worse than imagining that you’re stranded on a beach with, say, Marisa Miller. Except, of course, that a whole lot more people would rather be stranded on a beach with Marisa Miller than to get a first-turn kill in a Magic game. Feh. What do they know?

Imagine it. You sit down across from your opponent. You roll the die and win. You shake hands. You mulligan to six. Your opponent’s feeling good about that. And you win before he even gets a chance to draw the card on his first turn.

You’re a legend. Not a Legend. You’re awfully close, though. You’d be my hero, anyway. And a lot of other folks’, too.

The problem is that it’s nigh impossible to do. Wizards gave us the tools to get the job done, but the job itself is to build a Rube Goldberg-like contraption that won’t work if the chicken doesn’t lay an egg at the precisely correct time. (If the Rube Goldberg reference stumps you ’cause you’re not old enough to remember President Nixon resigning, check out Goldberg’s official web site. Essentially, Rube Goldberg designed contraptions that required maximum effort to gain minimal results.) Still, we gotta try. We gotta get it out of our system. And by “we,” I obviously mean “me.” It’s like that really hot babe at school. She’s outta your league for so many reasons. She’s a grade ahead of you. She’s a cheerleader. She dates the captain of the football team. Oh, yeah, and she’s hot. Except that you heard from a friend who baby-sits her kid sister that she might like you. And why not? You’re not that unattractive. Besides, you’d worship the ground she walked on, unlike that muscle-bound Dirk Steele. So, even though you’ll probably get shot down like a hot air balloon trying to cross the Berlin Wall in 1968, you gotta try. When it comes to this first-turn kill stuff, so do I.

Rube Would Be Proud

As I mentioned last week, you need a minimum of six cards to do this:

• a one-mana creature with haste. That’s either going to be Raging Goblin or Spark Elemental;

• a way to cast the creature (i.e. a Red-mana-producing land) (e.g. a Mountain);

• two Blazing Shoals; and

• two Red spells with a total converted mana cost of at least nineteen (if the creature you got was the Raging Goblin) or two Red spells with a total converted mana cost of at least seventeen (if the creature you got was the Spark Elemental) or more.

How to Beat Affinity on Turn 1

Here’s how it goes. You drop the Mountain, and cast your hasty creature. You attack. You cast Shoal on your critter, removing one of the ten- or nine-casting cost spells from the game. Then, you cast the second Shoal, doing the same with the other Big Red Spell. There ya go. Minimum of twenty damage.

If we want to try this, then, we’ve locked ourselves into certain cards. First, Blazing Shoal is a must. I’m smarter than I look, aren’t I? (I’d pretty much have to be.) We also want to maximize the chances of getting a hasty, one-casting-cost creature. In Standard for Red, you have the choice of Raging Goblin and Spark Elemental. Since that’s it, we’ll take both. There is exactly one ten-mana spell for Red, Myojin of Infinite Rage. Obviously, we have to have four of those. As for nine-mana spells, Red has three: Searing Wind; Furnace Dragon; and Bringer of the Red Dawn. I’m going to stay away from the non-creature spell simply because the deck needs creatures for reasons that you’ll see later. Besides, if the game goes on long enough that we get the Red Bringer out, we’ll be in darn good shape. That boy’s a house and a half. Besides, we might be looking at other ways to drop these into play.

The Conversation with a Player Who’s Much Better Than I Am

“Hey, Karl! [2000 Tennessee State Champ and former Pro Tour Chicago concubine Karl Allen] What’s up?”

“Romeo, what do you want now?”

“Hey, just callin’ to talk. You know, shoot the breeze. Congrats on winning our fantasy football league in your first year. Awesome, man.”

“Thanks. It wasn’t that tough, though. You traded me Shaun Alexander and drafted Dominick Davis for me when I was late for the first round. Look, I know you just want to talk about Magic. Can you speed it up? I gotta get to a baby class with Stacey.”

“Yeah. Sure. So, I’m looking at Blazing Shoal, and . . .”

“You’re kidding me, right? You’re going for that first-turn kill? You’re a lost cause, you know what?”

“I know. I know. I can’t help myself. This thing’s got itself wrapped around my cerebrum like some sort of mind slug from Star Trek or Star Wars or whatever.”

“I’ll be honest, Romeo. I know what you mean. The fact that a turn-one kill even exists is something you just hafta get out of your system, isn’t it?”


“You really are impossible. And you won’t leave me alone until I show you how bad it is, right?”


“STACEY! I can’t make it to the Daddy-2-Be class! Romeo needs help!”

“Thanks, Karl. You’re a good man.”

“Yes. Yes, I am. Okay. What do you have so far?”

“We have to have a first-turn creature with haste. So, I have four each of Raging Goblin and Spark Elemental. Plus, four Blazing Shoals and four Myojin of Infinite Rage.”

“Yeah, those are ‘must-haves.'”

“We have our choice of nine-casting-cost spells to go with the Shoals if we have the Spark Elemental first. The only three nine-mana Red spells in Standard are Searing Wind, Furnace Dragon, and Bringer of the Red Dawn.”

“The problem you have is that big gap in casting costs. You know that you’re never going to get to cast those, right?”

“. . . Well, I might . . .”

“Stop that. Stop that right now. You. Will. Never. Cast. Those. Got it? What you need is an alternate way to get them into play. Have you looked at Through the Breach?”

I'd Tell You What Goes Here, But It's a Family Site

“Is this more baby-having stuff? You know how that grosses me out.”

“No, you lobster-brained mule. It’s a Red instant that costs 4R. You put a creature into play. It has haste. You sac it at the end of the turn. So, you could play it at the end of your opponent’s turn and still be able to use any upkeep abilities the creature might have. Once, anyway. You can’t count on the double-Shoal all the time. You have to have another way to get stuff into play. That means you can’t consider Searing Wind. It has to be the Dragon or the Bringer.”

“I’d say that the Dragon would be the one to use if Affinity was still any good . . .”

“That wouldn’t matter. It only removes artifacts from the game if you played it from your hand.”

“Yeah. RTFC. Sorry. My bad. That leaves the Bringer. Still, that’s not a bad one to use. If my opponent has a blocker in play, during my upkeep, I get to take it. Then, the Bringer gets through.”

“Exactly. Now, you’re thinking.”


“Don’t get cocky. Have you thought about what to do if you only get like ten or twelve damage on turn 1?”

“Well, I was planning on Shock and Volcanic Hammer.”

“What about two-mana creatures with haste. Have you looked at any of those? I mean, a turn 2 kill wouldn’t stink, either.”

“Oh, yeah, I have Slith Firewalker all penciled in. In fact, if you have Chrome Mox in the deck and you’re on the draw, you could actually win on turn 1 with the Firewalker.”

“Whoa, there cowboy. Did you say Chrome Mox? Isn’t that out of your league?”

“Well, for me, yeah. But I’m gonna start mentioning more high-cost alternatives for the people who can afford them.”

“Sounds like a good idea.”

“Thanks again.”

“Have you thought about adding Green to the mix?”

“Geez, Karl. I’m having a tough enough time keeping my brain in my skull on this. Now you want to go two colors? With all that Red? {sigh} Okay, what’re you thinking about?”

“Green. Look at what you get. Mana acceleration. Heck, you might even be able to cast a Myojin or Bringer that way. Then, you have Hana Kami. Did you know that the Blazing Shoal’s Arcane?”

“Can’t say as I’d noticed.”

“Too busy looking at pictures of Tyra Banks, huh? Anyway, Hana Kami’s a one-mana creature. You could swing with it on turn 2 using a Shoal for big damage. Then, sac it and bring back the Shoal for the next turn.”

“Okay, so I see at least two slots the we have to change because of using Green. We have Hana Kami and like Kodama’s Reach.”

“Actually, you probably want another one. Time of Need. It grabs the Myojin for you.”

“So, let me get this straight. You get me all hyped up about Through the Breach with the Red Bringer. Then, you drop Green into the mix. But we need to free up two or three slots. Which really suggest dropping Through the Breach, the Red Bringer, and a burn spell or four. Is that right?”

“You learn well, grasshopper.”

“Forget it. I’m going mono-Red. We need the Bringer and the Myojin just in case. Goodbye.”

“Wait a second! Think about using Serum Powder, too, so you can mulligan until you get the right seven-card hand. It could be exactly {click}”

Have I mentioned that Karl is one of my favorite people in the world? Really, he is. If it weren’t for him, I’d never have tried writing about Magic on the internet.

Please, send all complaints to:

Karl Allen

P.O. Box 54321-B

Knoxville, TN 37901

I ended up switching Volcanic Hammer for Glacial Ray because the Ray can be Spliced onto both the Shoal and Through the Breach. In addition, Through the Breach can be Spliced onto Glacial Ray, which could end up being as useful.

In the end, after much theorizing, we came up with:

The Shoal Thing

“In my entire life, I’ve never had a sure thing.”

24 Lands

24 Mountain

20 Creatures

4 Raging Goblin

4 Spark Elemental

4 Slith Firewalker

4 Myojin of Infinite Rage

4 Bringer of the Red Dawn

16 Other Spells

4 Blazing Shoal

4 Through the Breach

4 Shock

4 Glacial Ray

For an even more cost-intensive version, you could drop a slot of spells (say, Glacial Ray) for Chrome Mox, giving you another chance at a first-turn creature with haste.

Now, for the moment of truth. How did the deck work?

You’re Kidding, Right?

Yes, I actually tested this. The results went like this:

Against Ravager/Vial Affinity

At the time that I wrote this, no bannings had been announced. So, I had to write it as if Affinity was still in the mix. In fact, any bannings that do happen won’t go into effect until March 20th. That’s a full month after Betrayers is legal. So, there will be/is a full month overlap.

The Shoal Thing got clobbered. It won once in ten games. Yes, it was with the first-turn double-Shoals thing. Other than that, nothing.

Against Broodstar Affinity

Do you really want me to go on? I’m telling you, this deck can not be competitive. You will play it only

Against Green/Black Control

because you want the chance to pull off a first-turn kill in Standard. It will happen maybe

Against Blue/White Control

once per tournament. Maybe. When it does, your name will be whispered throughout the gaming

Against Tooth and Nail

hall. “Hey, Milhouse just pulled off a turn-one kill with Blazing Shoal. Nelson never even got to draw!”

In the end, it comes down to this. Shooting for a turn-one kill is dicey at best. The deck has to sell out so totally to doing so that it almost can’t do anything else to even stay in the game. Some decks are resilient. This one is absotively, posilutely not.

So, Then Blazing Shoal Blows Monkey Chunks?

This is not to say that Blazing Shoal is a bad card. On the contrary. Like Howl from Beyond and Enrage, the card can be a game winner. All it takes is a single unblocked creature and enough mana or a big enough card, and you opponent’s game is over. The huge advantage that Blazing Shoal has over Howl from Beyond and Enrage is that it can be used when you’re tapped out. Talk about a combat trick.

Is it good enough, though? In other words, what about a deck using Blazing Shoal that wasn’t single-mindedly focused on a turn-one kill?

This is where the Hana Kami can come in handy. Hey, a Handi Kami! *ahem* The Kami can bring back a Blazing Shoal or a Glacial Ray. Plus, it means we’re using Green. One of the biggest pitfalls with the first version is simply that random 1/1’s can stop your strategy cold. It’s a real bummer going second after your opponent has dropped, oh, I don’t know, a Myr Servitor and realizing that, by golly, it’s gonna be tough to win. Green means that we can use Predator’s Strike. All of a sudden, an 11/1 that’s about to be chump blocked by a 1/1 Klum token becomes a 14/4 trampler that’s splooging thirteen points of damage over that Klum token.

A deck like this, however, wants a real mana curve. No Myojin or Bringers in this sucker. Everything has to be something you could cast. However, we also want something in the four- or five-casting-cost range so that, if we can pitch something to the Shoal, the effect is big enough to matter.

Hmmmmm . . . Red. Four or five mana.


Oh, my goodness, children.


It’s The Clue Phone™. Let’s see who it is, shall we?


Yes, this is him.





Why, thank you!


That was Obvious Man. He says we should use Arc-Slogger. What do you think? Me, too! (You could also use Kumano, Master Yamabushi. The casting cost is the same. The biggest differences are that the Slogger is a 4/5 and not a 4/4 and isn’t a Legend while Kumano can use his ability more than five times per game.)

As badly as I wanted to use some mana fixing in this deck, I could not find the room. Whenever I got Rampant Growth or Kodama’s Reach during testing, I always wished it was something else. So, I had to simply rely on the mana working out properly. What I ended up with was:

The Next-Best Thing

23 Lands

4 Pinecrest Ridge

12 Mountain

7 Forest

22 Creatures

4 Raging Goblin

3 Hana Kami

4 Slith Firewalker

4 Viashino Sandstalker

4 Lightning Elemental / Lesser Gargadon

3 Arc-Slogger / Kumano, Master Yamabushi

15 Other Spells

4 Blazing Shoal

4 Predator’s Strike

4 Glacial Ray

3 Shock

I had started with twenty-two lands and a full complement of four Shocks. I kept hitting a wall when getting to four or five mana. Shock was the best thing to drop.

“Haste Makes Waste. Okay, Waste ‘Em, Boys!”

I like creatures with haste as long as they’re efficient. Look at Viashino Sandstalker. Yes, you have to recast him every turn. Big deal. He’s immune to sorcery-speed removal while being a 4/2 for three mana. If you don’t like that, try Ronin Houndmaster. The front end is half the size, but he can beat up some bigger guys. In addition, I’ve found that the Bushido is a nice bluff in and of itself. “Well, I don’t want to block him because I’ll lose my . I’ll let him go.” Then you double-Shoal for an extra eight or ten. Boo-yah!

Lightning Elemental is similar to the Sandstalker in that it’s hasty and efficient. Sure, the buttocks is kinda small, but it costs four mana and has haste. Yes, dinky 1/1’s stop him. That’s what removal is for. Or Predator’s Strike. If you don’t like those ideas or the fact that the Elemental is a 4/1, try Lesser Gargadon. Yup, he was reprinted in Eighth Edition, and he’s a freakin’ house. He’s a 6/4 for four mana. That’s six on the front backed up by four. Why is no one using him? Probably because that drawback is kinda big. Feh. He’s a 6/4 for four mana.

Then, there’s Arc-Slogger versus Kumano. Choose your poison. Mix and match. Opponents will fear both, and both are a five-point power-pump with Blazing Shoal.

How to Play the Deck

“Vewwwwy cahwfuwwwy.” Seriously, though, folks, it’s not a tough deck to play. It’s a beatdown deck with a nice trick. One extra critter making its way through can be utterly awful for your opponent.

However, as Chad Ellis pointed out last week, there are some “win more” cards, and Blazing Shoal seems to be one of those, at least when the deck isn’t designed to use it for a turn 1 or turn 2 kill. Of course, there will always be times when you can use Blazing Shoal to win. For example, you have four creatures on the attack while your opponent can only block three. S/he blocks your three biggest guys letting that li’l ol’ Slith Firewalker through. Heck, what can you do? You only have a Forest and a Mountain up. So, you cast Predator’s Strike on the Firewalker and then remove a Lesser Gargadon from your hand to cast the Blazing Shoal on him. All of a sudden, instead of one damage, your opponent takes eight.

What if you didn’t have the Shoal, though? What if it was something else like Ryusei, the Falling Star, or even another Arc-Slogger? Sure, your opponent wouldn’t have taken eight damage on that attack. At a minimum, s/he would have taken one. Maybe more if you cast the Predator’s Strike on another creature. But what would the board have looked like after that combat? Would things have been better if that Shoal had been a creature? Maybe not. Maybe this attack wins the game. If it doesn’t, something else is better. Maybe even that Lesser Gargadon that got pitched to the Shoal. The fact is, though, that you were up a creature, or you wouldn’t have attacked. If you weren’t confident that your attack was going to take out some blockers, too, you probably wouldn’t have done it anyway.

The bottom line is this: Blazing Shoal isn’t a bad card. It may just be a “win more” card, though, unless the deck it’s in can kill on turn one or two. If you use it in another deck (like the second one in this piece), make sure that you understand that there are times when you’ll wish it was another creature. When you win with it, it will be flashy, but it could also be your downfall.

Having said all of that “caveat” stuff, Blazing Shoal is a fun card. It will win you some games that you have no right to win. Believe you me, that is some kinda fun.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Unfortunately, the State Fire Marshall says that only thirty-six people can be in this room at the same time. So, me, you, and your sister will have to go back to my place. [I am so telling Luanne about this one. – Knut, tired of being the only one to catch hell for his articles]

Chris Romeo